In my early twenties I had a bucket list pinned to my wall in my mouldy flat in Bethnal Green in London (mouldy but fantastic) and I would slowly tick things off on it. But it was a slow process and most of the things on there required courage (tick), but sadly also money, of which I had zero. It was great to look at it and imagine all the wonderful things my future self would achieve, but it would also cause me to forget about the things I had achieved so far and instilled this ‘grass is greener’ mentality which so many twenty-somethings struggle with. I constantly felt as if I was underachieving and punished myself because of that.
I struggle to remember some of the things on there but here are a few:
Go back to Thailand (done) – the first time I went to Thailand was with a boyfriend who treated me terribly so I vowed to go back with someone who was at least a half decent human – that ended up being the man I married (and we’ve been twice!).
Get a tattoo – still haven’t done. There’s been one design I’ve wanted for years and years but for some reason I’ve always put it off! I think it’s because I have zero pain threshold.
Visit 30 countries before 30 – I’m on 27 and have just turned 29 so this is almost complete!
Learn to knit – no idea why this was on there – still no desire to start.
Go skydiving – as I’ve got older my desire to do this has vanished and I kinda prefer being on the ground.
It’s a shame I can’t remember the rest, but I think, looking at this and realising half of them I actually ended up not caring about, means I was putting too much pressure on myself to do all the exciting things you’re ‘meant’ to do in your youth – travel the world, skydive, get inked etc. My life has been defined by lots of amazing travel experiences but when I look back now, I’m grateful that my achievements have gone well beyond that list and I’ve done things I couldn’t ever have predicted. It’s easy to to be harsh on ourselves and get wrapped up in what you haven’t done or your supposed failures, instead of showing gratitude for the positive things which have shaped you as a person.
As an act of gratitude, I want to share with you my Reverse Bucket List. This is a list of things I’m proud of achieving and a moment of reflection. Happiness isn’t all about planning for the future – it’s about taking on the present with courage, and reflecting on the past with gratefulness and peace. Soppiness over, enjoy.
1. Became a qualified journalist.
I love this one because it had been something I had saved up for for a while and I wanted to get paid to write for as long as I could remember. I felt undervalued in my job and quite frankly a little depressed I think after working at a property marketing company for nearly two years as a receptionist, so to finally say goodbye to that chapter of my life was such a relief. I aced my course, learnt shorthand, made front page many times and was a professional journo for about a year until sadly I couldn’t pay my rent anymore on the low wage I was on. Silver lining – I ended up working in travel for four years and travelled a lot and had actual money. But I’m so glad I chased the journo dream and did it – it’s meant I now have the knowledge to promote my blog finally and the confidence to know that I can do anything I put my mind to. I also now do a lot of social media, copywriting and proofreading in my current role so, you know, transferable skills and all that.
2. Lived in a different country.
I’ve lived in Dubai for five and a half months now – something totally unpredictable but wonderful! I’m really getting into my job, I spend every weekend in the sun and although I have minimal friends (!) well it’s all part of the journey isn’t it?
3. Got married! (Planned and executed within six months, may I add).
In the run up to Dubai and between multiple holidays and busy jobs we also managed to plan and execute a wedding within 6 months! And it went pretty well, we think!
4. Run two marathons. Yeah I’m not doing this one again, ever.
5. Snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef.
This was one of those stereotypical bucket list items that everyone should actually do. I went to Queensland, Australia, last year on a familiarisation trip with my last job and this was one of the many awesome experiences we had. This and having a ten-course tasting menu in the beautiful Hinterlands. Visiting the most perfect beach in the world, Whitehaven. Having a helicopter ride over the reef. Feeding kangaroos and Kuala bears. Golf-buggying around Hamilton Island. I need to stop, I’m getting jealous of my past self.
6. Fed and bathed rescue elephants in Thailand.
The first time I went to Thailand I was pretty naive and didn’t know they were treated horrendously and that riding them was actually really unnecessary and totally unpleasant for them. I recently went back to Thailand on my honeymoon and visited Elephant Hills within Khao Sok National Park. They have minimal interactions with visitors apart from their keepers who don’t beat them and don’t of course make them do tricks or rides. It’s an ethical and educational sanctuary and is one of the few well-run elephant experiences in Thailand.
7. Moved to London when I was 18.
I went to study Drama at Queen Mary, University of London and never looked back. After ten years of flat sharing in Bethnal Green with the best people, making questionable career decisions and drinking an amount that has definitely shortened my life expectancy, I can safely say that London is my favourite city in the world.
8. Flown in a hot air balloon.
My husband (boyfriend at the time) bought me a hot hair balloon ride for my birthday and we were scheduled to take off from somewhere in St Albans. But then the weather meant we needed to take off from somewhere else that I cannot remember the name of, so we got on a bus and ended up in a field where there was a fun farmer’s market and sheep shearing competitions and all sorts. I cried when we took off because I hate heights but then we were up and the views were amazing and I forgot all about it. And then because you can’t really control where you land, we ended up plummeting into Rupert Grint’s (Ron Weasley) garden. Of all places. His massive but totally harmless Great Danes ran out to greet us and his security let our vans into his garden, where we had a quick glass of bubbly and then politely got asked to leave. We saw him through his kitchen window as we left and he looked pretty confused about the whole thing.
9. Partied at a festival in another country.
Sziget festival kind of gives Glasto a bit of a run for its money. In no particular order, the year we went we saw: Skrillex, Madness, Blink-182, Queens of the Stone Age, OutKast, Bastille, The 1975, Macklemore, Jimmy Eat World, Imagine Dragons, Placebo, Manic Street Preachers, Lily Allen, The Kooks, Calvin Harris – the list goes on! For a week Budapest was our home and although we returned more broken than I have ever been in my life it was the most fun. There are too many stories to go into so I’ll save them for another time!
10. Went interrailing around Europe.
This is something I would definitely recommend and do again. In ten days, we did Dover – Lille – Bruges – Berlin – Munich (Oktoberfest) – Interlaken – Basel – Paris – Dover all by train. Unplanned, unpredictable and totally how travel was meant to be.
11. Did Camp America.
Another experience I would totally recommend. Not only was I travelling solo for the first time but it was also the first time I had worked abroad. I also trained to be a lifeguard prior! It was a girls’ camp so it wasn’t without it’s dramas, but the experience and the opportunity to travel afterwards and at only 20 was a once in a lifetime experience.
12. Bathed in the Blue Lagoon and saw geysers in Iceland.
Sadly we didn’t catch the Northern Lights and I also caught chicken pox but you can read about that here.
13. Known my best friend for 18 years.
Friends come and they go but my best friend Lisa is definitely a keeper. She’s taken care of me in my darkest moments and shared with me some of my happiest times. My maid of honour, my guide around Shanghai, my partner in crime at school and my biggest cheerleader. We have both changed a lot over the years so I think it’s a massive thing to be able to say that we are still so close despite being so far.
14. Lost two stone and became healthy.
This one had been bugging me for a long time and I could not look at photos of myself without feeling disgusted or questioning why my boyfriend was with me. It made me insecure but also I was very much in denial about how much weight I had gained after many years indulging and not looking after myself. Part of me just thought ah, I’ll just eat more salad and drink less (which never happened) and part of me had already given up. Enter Joe Wicks aka The Bodycoach. Essex boy with a bit of a whiney voice but ultimately the creator of a 90 Day plan changing the way you see fitness and nutrition for the rest of your life. I’ll do another post about this, but in January 2017 I took control. No fad dieting, no rush job, just healthy recipes and mostly HIIT and weight training which are now just part of my life. Along with the occasional brunch.
15. Overcame my health anxiety.
This was mostly thanks to the above point but was underlying for several years. What started as generalised anxiety about not being good enough and Imposter Syndrome eventually shifted and I worried about my health non stop. I still look at my heart rate now and then and if I’m worried about something funny looking I’ll go to a doctor of course, but since I lost weight I realised how tough my body is. It endures a lot at the gym and because I’m expending all that extra energy into lifting heavy things rather than worrying about things I knew all along were in my head, I just don’t have time for that anymore. It’s tough but, in short, get to the gym, it’s the best therapy.
Talking of therapy, writing this list has taken ages but has been a wonderful trip down memory lane. I thoroughly recommend doing it, if not just to brag about your great life, but also to bring you back to life and to the present.
What does your Reverse Bucket List look like?
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